Number plates may go quarterly

Click to follow

Car number plates in Britain may get a new first letter every three months to even out the huge August surge in vehicle sales - when registrations change - which has caused problems for the motor industry.

Talks about replacing the present system have been going on between the Department of Transport, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the police and other interested groups.

Although no final decision has been reached, the quarterly change is the option preferred by most of those taking part in the discussions. Other options have included each driver keeping the same number plate for life or letting people choose their own combinations.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport said: "We accept that there are problems with the current system because of the August surge. The three-month changeover is one of a number of options being considered."

The new system will probably be introduced in 1998 and if the quarterly option is adopted, the remaining letters of the alphabet will quickly be used up, requiring the DoT to find a new way of denoting registration date.

The police favour retention of letters because research shows that witnesses are more likely to recall the first letter of the number plate than anything else, apart from the car's colour.

A quarter of Britain's 2 million annual new car sales take place on or around 1 August.

The public likes the system, which enables drivers to show off their brand new cars in early August, but it creates huge problems for the motor industry which must stockpile vehicles for months to meet huge demand and then suffer months of slower sales.

News analysis, page 15